Diverse ideas of masculine and feminine lie at the heart of five of the six jewellery designs that have been named as finalists in the 2008 AGR Matthey Jewellery Design Awards.

The award winners will be announced at the Gala Preview of the National Jewellery Showcase 2008 event on Thursday, 5 June. There are two category awards, one for Fine Jewellery and one for Contemporary Jewellery; each with prize money of $2000.

“The gender issue is a notable and quite remarkable feature of this year’s awards finalists,” says National Jewellery Showcase organiser Grant Stevenson.

“Of the six works, five offer a unique perspective on female form, function and fantasy or male notions of beauty, power, passion and pain,” he says.

“With titles like ‘A Female Voice’, ‘Death and Glory’, and ‘The Fire Inside’, almost all of the pieces make some comment or allusion to what we take to be masculine or feminine experiences of the world.”

The contemporary finalists are:

Nikkie Gibson, Wellington, for ‘Death and Glory’, a silver medal incorporating her family coat of arms (an iron cross and three crescent moons) with an oxidised and decayed centre, set in an Elastoplast box

Jin Kim, Hungry Creek Art & Craft School, Auckland, for ‘A Female Voice’, a brooch (one of three) made of silver and tampons with embroidered tops.

The fine jewellery finalists are:

Christine Hafermalz-Wheeler, Auckland, for a necklace featuring a pounamu pendant carved by Donn Salt, coloured diamonds, gold, and Indonesian semi-baroque golden pearls

Steve Haywood, Whangarei, for ‘Engineered’, a man’s ring made of black diamonds set in gold and palladium held together with titanium screws

Chris Idour, Dunedin, for ‘Ginga – The Fire Inside’, a ring with a matrix fire opal, textured silver and fine gold, and diamonds

Nigel Wong, The Village Goldsmith, Wellington, for ‘Vessel’, amarquise tanzanite ring set in all platinum.

Several pieces celebrate male strength and valour, Mr Stevenson said. Steve Haywood wanted to make the sort of “gutsy ring” that a bloke with a passion for motorbikes would happily wear on his Ducati Monster. Nikkie Gibson used her piece to explore men’s pain and strength in times of war – ‘lest we forget’.

Others explore notions of femaleness. Jin Kim’s silver and tampon brooch was the result of her wanting to push the boundaries of people's thinking – “I used tampons for their qualities of softness while referencing the issues of [being] female”. Chris Idour designed his Elizabethan-style ring with the vision of a willowy redhead with green eyes modelling it on the catwalk in New York.

There are historic allusions too to Christine Hafermalz-Wheeler’s necklace, in which she has selected semi-baroque pearls, diamonds and gold to enhance a pounamu pendant carved in a striking female form by noted carver Donn Salt.

The exception to the gender subtext is Nigel Wong’s ring ‘Vessel’ which, instead, has a nautical theme. The ring features a tanzanite the colour of the ocean, and has the silhouette of a sail – like a ‘vessel’ riding over the sea.

The awards sponsor is bullion supplier AGR Matthey Ltd.

All awards finalists’ pieces will be on display and for sale at the National Jewellery Showcase 2008. The Showcase is unique in that it gives both fine and contemporary New Zealand jewellery designers a single national forum, all in one location. The public can meet the designers and buy their work. It is being held at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington from 6-8 June.

Features of this year’s event include ‘Overcast’, an exhibition of contemporary jewellery curated by Aucklander Renée Bevan in association with TheNewDowse; ‘The Designers’ Choice’, a collection of unique and memorable fine jewellery pieces specially brought together for this event; and a selection of work by four renowned jade and bone carvers.

The National Jewellery Showcase is now in its third year. Last year’s event attracted over 3000 visitors.